synths: more with less OR less with more?

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8bit9bot
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synths: more with less OR less with more?

Post by 8bit9bot » Sun Mar 03, 2013 7:55 pm

I am wondering what the consensus is around here. What's the favored approach? Using a more limited synth e.g. Juno-60 and using processing and double tracks etc. to get it to sound bigger when needed? Or using a more feature rich synth e.g. Jupiter-8 and scaling back/ignoring features when you need "less huge" sounds?

I can't really decide what approach I favor... I am always impressed when I hear something that sounds awesome and find out it was using lower budget gear. But ofcourse, I feel like maybe I am missing out by not having the big budget synths and sculpting them into whatever suits the occasion.

There are advantages to both... the simpler synths are faster to program and cheaper to maintain... the "all-out" synths have more variety but are either slightly-slower to program or scarier to maintain. Then there's always the "have both at your disposal" approach. ;)

What do you all think?

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Re: synths: more with less OR less with more?

Post by Z » Sun Mar 03, 2013 7:59 pm

Since I hardly sequence or multi-track, I need less gear with more abilities.

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Re: synths: more with less OR less with more?

Post by Scories » Sun Mar 03, 2013 9:25 pm

When I was composing pure synth music, the most efficient way to compose music was by using an all-in-one synth sequenced by an intuitive hardware sequencer, supported by one or two simple analog synths with a raw sound (played manually). In my case it was MC-50 + Korg Z1 + (Minikorg700/sh-101/Juno6).

Now I'm trying to make things more sophisticated and it kills my workflow.

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Re: synths: more with less OR less with more?

Post by syntheticsolutions » Sun Mar 03, 2013 11:12 pm

I prefer to have a specific synth that really excels at whatever I am looking for.

For example, if I want a rich string sound, I am guaranteed to get it from my recently acquired RS-505, If I want a classic arpeggiator, I will turn to the Juno 6 or Polysix. For me personally, I love to have a wide range of sound sculpting tools. Of coarse the Jupiter 4 sounds bloody incredible every time I turn it on however, it is not always what I am looking for.

It is really nice to be able to choose between synths relative to the task in hand however, You will find that great results can be achieved with a flexible, cheap and basic synth providing you learn it well. Despite having access to many higher end synths, I still find the trusty old MS-10 to be the most pleasing and charismatic on record, with the use of some tasty effects like tape delay, reverb, phasers and ring mod etc. it genuinely excels just as well as the big boys. It is also probably the cheapest synth I own.
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Re: synths: more with less OR less with more?

Post by walkathon » Mon Mar 04, 2013 12:07 am

Having been at both ends of the spectrum, I'd say try to hit a point where you have as little gear as functionally possible. I'm currently at a point where I have more gear than I've ever had, and my workrate certainly isn't reflecting that at the moment. You'll also rarely push your gear out of its comfort zone if you have an overabundance of options to choose from, etc.

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Re: synths: more with less OR less with more?

Post by 8bit9bot » Mon Mar 04, 2013 12:45 am

great answers!

i like the sort of side-topic we've drifted into here - whats the most efficient way or inspiring way to work? have a special synth for each task? or have just a couple and push them to their limits? also... multi-track or not?

personally i like the "keep it simple" method... i keep changing the analog polys in my setup because i am trying to find "the one" - i think i might have had one that clicked but i mistakenly let it go - the quest continues

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Re: synths: more with less OR less with more?

Post by bouzoukijoe1 » Mon Mar 04, 2013 1:16 am

+1 walkathon. as little gear as possible.

for me, I can hardly function artistically when I have to deal with more than two synths and a drum machine. it's just too much jumping around mentally and if I try to use any more than that, I feel more like an engineer than an artist. but ymmv. depends on your musical style too.

also I like to do everything in real time rather than multitrack so I can adjust each timbre and make sure they fit the right space in the mix. what sucks about multitracking is that you kind of have to commit to each timbre and you can't really adjust the previous timbres while recording the new one (unless you use EQ or other post- tools). but that sucks. it's nicer when you can tweak each timbre in real time. however, I guess if you are experienced enough and know your sound, you can multitrack with no problem because you already know beforehand what the mix will generally sound like and where to place each timbre's frequencies.

also, I really like having a distinct poly and a mono. polys can't sound like monos, and monos can't sound like polys. unless you use a VA like a Virus or Supernova that has both modes, separates is essential to me.

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Re: synths: more with less OR less with more?

Post by Scories » Mon Mar 04, 2013 2:08 am

Gear aquisition syndrome is a real plague among musicians; synth armadas and walls covered with euro-racks, tons of plug-ins... Does it help us to make better music? I don't think so.
Forums such as VSE, MuffWiggler and Gearslutz doesn't help much.

From my point of view, electronic music peaked with artists like Mouse on Mars, BoC and Squarepusher who found a perfect balance between complexity/simplicity exploration/musicality while using just a few sound sources and a good amount of musical knowledge and imagination.

The differences between an analog synth and an other are not so huge. And if you keep changing the synths you are using, it's hard to gel with them. The best thing is to restrain yourself to the minimal amount of synths, the ones with the best possible tone and good flexibility. Then try to get used to them as much as possible.
If you want to get some new sounds, then get some new effect processors and pedals before changing the instruments.

I'm planning to get a minimal setup just with mojo-inducting gear and then stop visiting musician forums. I've sold A LOT of great-sounding synths over the past few months. I'm getting close now to the ideal setup now! :D

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Re: synths: more with less OR less with more?

Post by garranimal » Mon Mar 04, 2013 2:54 am

I am now in the camp of using less synths, but the synths have to be deep polyphonic beasts. Used to collect a ton of gear but sold it all down to my most essential and most used pieces. My Achilles heel has been a couple of old stringers, one trick ponies at that. The other exception to fill a niche with a good mono-synth.

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Re: synths: more with less OR less with more?

Post by balma » Mon Mar 04, 2013 3:11 am

Living in a country with an income average of $300 per month can force you to have a minimalistic setup :mrgreen:

Is not less or more. Synthesizers are fantastic, amazing inventions. Most of them are too much for their owners. And most of them, still complaining about their lacks, instead trying to keep improving their skills and interaction with them. Is the way that modern way of life and capitalism teach us to rate and see most of technological products. Or trying to "look like" x artist.
No matter the instrument, a very close approach to it and a humble attitude to keep always learning, will end in something good for you.

I focus on having different technologies at my disposition. A sampler, a rompler, a VA, an analog, some hybrid or something else. Not labels or tendencies, but synths wich can interact between them and behave as a single unit, finding complementary associations between their possibilities and strenghts. Not the latest product, but an heterogeneous system serving your creativity purposes.
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Re: synths: more with less OR less with more?

Post by 8bit9bot » Mon Mar 04, 2013 3:34 am

Scories wrote: The differences between an analog synth and an other are not so huge. And if you keep changing the synths you are using, it's hard to gel with them. The best thing is to restrain yourself to the minimal amount of synths, the ones with the best possible tone and good flexibility. Then try to get used to them as much as possible.
If you want to get some new sounds, then get some new effect processors and pedals before changing the instruments.
well put

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Re: synths: more with less OR less with more?

Post by Stab Frenzy » Mon Mar 04, 2013 6:18 am

8bit9bot wrote:I am wondering what the consensus is around here. What's the favored approach? Using a more limited synth e.g. Juno-60 and using processing and double tracks etc. to get it to sound bigger when needed? Or using a more feature rich synth e.g. Jupiter-8 and scaling back/ignoring features when you need "less huge" sounds?
I personally like to have a whole lot of functionality with the synths I have, that way I can do simple stuff with them if I want or get really complicated. The synths I have are all quite 'feature rich' as you put it (Eurorack modular, Octatrack, Ultranova, Nord Modular G2, Evolver) and when I'm using them I often use them all as a unit together, with one patched into another, being sampled by the Octatrack, running back through another's filter. I think of them all like different effects and sources and patch them all together that way.

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Re: synths: more with less OR less with more?

Post by Romannis1972 » Mon Mar 04, 2013 7:16 am

I had at one point a massive setup. 4 Synth.com modular cabs full, SE atc-1's, Quasimidi Polymorphs, Nords, Viruses (still have one A), etc.. At times I would find myself sitting there just staring at them with nothing coming out....
Then I sold it all.
Now that I have 4 main synths and a handful of great apps, my creativity is back on track. Each one of my hardware synths are geared towards a specific sound with variations of those sounds. Doing shows now, I feel more compelled to just let it flow and feel it, rather than switching back and forth between presets I've made. And for said prestes, they are arranged in the order of the tunes for each show so I do not have to waste time finding them.
Organization and a comfortable train of thought without the clutter is the best medicine....

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Re: synths: more with less OR less with more?

Post by Black Tomorrow » Mon Mar 04, 2013 9:20 am

Minimal is the way to go. My best material was done with a rompler (a Yamaha PSR of all things), a Moog Rogue, and a drum machine... and a V-synth toward the end of the project. Eventually, GAS set in, I started acquiring more and more synths, and my creativity died. I've slimmed down a lot since then. Not quite as slim as the rig I just described, but one that is sufficient. One rompler (same one), one monosynth, one (cheap) analog poly, a V-synth, and a drum machine. I'm no longer overwhelmed with gear, but I also have all my bases covered, should I need any particular sound.
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Re: synths: more with less OR less with more?

Post by nvbrkr » Mon Mar 04, 2013 9:31 am

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Seriously though, I have three analog synths, a midi controller for soft synths and a Rhodes piano at the moment. I don't really think it's the amount of gear that "hinders me" from making more music, but there was just one point in underground music when there was so much stuff coming out that it felt a bit stupid to just add up to that pile myself. I've just played the keyboards several hours a day and done the occasional recording when I've felt like it.

I think I need at least one "feature rich" synth, which is why I've chosen to stick with my Voyager. The others can be more basic and free software for sample playback / fm is just fine for me.
Last edited by nvbrkr on Mon Mar 04, 2013 7:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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